Curtain-twitchers recruited for CCTV monitoring

Some people are really really nosy. The police can’t be everywhere at once. Put those two points together and you’ve got a simple, if controversial, solution to low-level crime.

Internet Eyes, which is launching in the British county of Devon, allows internet users to monitor CCTV footage from participating businesses. They’ll then get a token fee for watching the footage, but can report any crimes they see. Whichever viewer makes the most legitimate reports each month wins a £1,000 (approximately $1,600) reward.

There are several measures in place to stop people abusing the system. Viewers are not told where the camera they are watching is located, and they will never see footage from their own post code (zip code) area, which is designed to stop them recognizing the location and attempting to tackle offenders themselves.

To cut down on bogus alerts (such as deliberately wasting the time of business owners), there’s a membership fee ranging from £1.99 a month to £12.99 a year (approximately $3.20 to $20). It would take two hours of monitoring a day to make back this money in usage rewards, though clearly the hope is that most people will be attracted by the £1,000 prize (or simply their own nosiness.)

Users are also limited to making five reports a month, though any report found to be legitimate doesn’t come off this total.

Each user is able to monitor four cameras at once, with the cameras changing every 20 minutes. Once a user reports a crime, the customer whose premises are covered by the camera gets a text message alert, plus a screenshot if they have a picture-message phone.

To encourage “responsible use” of the system, once a viewer makes a report, they are switched to a different camera. While that’s an understandable move to cut down on voyeurism, it does create the risk that somebody who stumbles across a particularly exciting feed will be tempted to hold back on reporting it until events have played out.

The company behind the scheme told the BBC that more than 13,000 people have already registered an interest in signing up. It explained the original plan was not to charge viewers, but this was a legal requirement under data protection laws which also require that the company verify the age and identity of participants, who must be at least 18.


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